Methodist in the Media

Nebraska's 1st COVID-19 Patient, Family Reflect on Diagnosis

Published: March 10, 2021

One year ago, Ralph Hutchinson was quarantined in the bedroom of his northwest Omaha home, wondering if his daughter, Emma, would live or die. His daughter was Nebraska’s first COVID-19 patient, a canary in a coronavirus coal mine that’s now infected more than 200,000 Nebraskans.

There were no initial suspicions that she had the coronavirus when she arrived at the Methodist Women’s Hospital. But hospital personnel grew concerned when the oxygen levels in her blood registered low, about 86% — lower than the normal 95% to 100%. Emma and her father had just returned from England for the 100th birthday of Ralph’s father. That wasn’t a country of concern at that point, but Emma was labeled a “potential” COVID-19 patient due to the pulse oximeter reading.

A CT scan was ordered, which showed the telltale signs of COVID-19.

It was an “a-ha moment,” according to Dr. Robert Penn, the hospital’s director of infection prevention.

Omaha World-Herald: Father of Emma Hutchinson, Nebraska's first COVID patient, says they're 'luckier' than so many

KETV: 'I'm a fighter and a survivor,' says Nebraska's first COVID-19 patient 

KMTV: Nebraska's first confirmed COVID patient vaccinated

WOWT: Methodist marks one year of COVID-19 in Nebraska

NET: COVID-19 in Nebraska: One Year Later